Noting that about four crore people plunge into poverty each year due to medical expenses, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday stressed the need for crafting a high quality national healthcare system for the poor and rich alike.

Voicing concern over the impoverishing impact of health and medical expenses on the vulnerable sections of the society, he said it was unacceptable that almost 80 per cent of the expenditure on healthcare by people was met by personal, out of pocket, payment.

“I am shocked to note that as many as 4 crore people of our country plunge into poverty each year due to expenses on medical treatment.

“Yet, we should remember that the health services for the poor cannot be poor health services. We need to craft a high quality national health system that is used by the poor and the rich alike,” Mr Mukherjee said addressing 40th convocation function of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

Suggesting out of the box managerial and administrative reforms at the State and Central levels, he said public health system must be greatly expanded and strengthened across the nation.

“We need many more nurses, doctors, paramedics and health workers. We need to decentralise planning and implementation of healthcare to the district and sub-district levels.

“We need to take health services closer to the homes of the families — even a primary health centre is too far by today’s standard and need,” Mr Mukherjee said.

Asserting that health is among the topmost priorities of the government, he said the nation’s productivity depends on the health and well-being of its citizens. “Economic growth that does not go hand-in-hand with reduction in avoidable mortality and ill health is neither sustainable nor desirable,” the President said.